The key to success in sales is asking the right questions, whether you’re getting your foot in the door or trying to reach the top decision-maker. Before you make contact, you want to qualify a lead internally with yourself and, later, with them. Being prepared can make the difference between constantly closing or constantly being rejected.
Here’s what you should know about the art of asking questions when it comes to prospects.
Phrasing is Everything
Before approaching your prospects with a list of questions, make sure you’re asking them the right way. That is, you want to ask in a way designed for the answer you’re looking for. Open-ended questions are meant to inspire prospects to speak in detail about their business, obstacles, and professional needs. Closed-ended questions are meant for short, precise answers – particularly to check off a list of qualifiers.
Open-ended questions are crucial for a successful sales conversation. They initiate detailed discussion and help you build your case and exhibit your solution’s value. For example, instead of asking, “Is there a specific goal you’d like to accomplish this year?”, you want to ask, “What are some specific goals you’d like to accomplish this year?”
Closed-ended questions don’t further the conversation and should be reserved solely for gaining hard data, functional answers about a follow-up, or next-steps in the sales process.
What to Avoid When Asking Questions
It’s easy to slip into some flawed practices when you’re in the middle of the sales conversation. Try to remember these so you can avoid falling prey to common sales pitfalls.
- Don’t interrogate: Remember, you’re asking questions, not interrogating a witness. Instead of flooding the prospect with questions, pace them. Give the prospect room to breathe.
- Don’t be a robot: Sure, you have a list of questions. But you don’t want it to seem or sound that way. Avoid running down a list and instead have a conversation. In times like these, simulation practice can do wonders for your sales process and dialogue.
- Be genuine and curious: Your boilerplate responses will become obvious, so try to be genuine and show your honest enthusiasm.
- Listen actively: Yes, you’re busy. But it’s important to never rush prospects through their answers or offer suggestions to your own questions. Avoid interrupting and let them answer your questions fully. Listening actively will also help you show them why your product or service is right for them.
As you take the plunge into prospecting, remember the following questions and how they can help you move your potential new client forward in the funnel.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Asking Your Prospect
It’s important to properly prepare for a call. Without some homework on your end, any call could turn into a disaster. Save time, energy, and discomfort by asking yourself these questions before getting on the phone with a prospect:
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What are your target regions?
- What industries do you serve with your solution?
- Are you going to sell directly to this contact? Or is this just to get your foot in the door?
- How long has your prospect held their current position?
- How low can you go on the price or discount?
- How smoothly can you transition from sale to implementation?
- Does this prospect need your help? Do they want it?
- Can you help them?
Get to know your leads or prospects by asking discovery questions. This way, you can gain perspective on their role in the decision-making process, which gives you a better chance to meet their needs with your solution.
- Tell me about your company, including company history.
- What does your role look like in the bigger picture and day-to-day routine?
- What metrics are you responsible for?
Sales Qualifying Questions
To get to action steps, you need to know if your lead is a prospect. Start qualifying your leads by gaining answers to these significant, qualifying questions:
- What is the source of the problem you’re trying to solve?
- Why is now the right time to seek a solution?
- How long have you been dealing with the issue?
- What obstacles have you been facing that have kept you from making a change?
- What would happen if you didn’t fix this problem?
- What obstacles do you think you’ll come across with this solution?
- Have you budgeted for a fix? If not, when will you have a budget worked out?
- Is our solution within your price range?
- What efforts and money are you spending on the issue today?
- What would be your role in this process if you choose to move forward?
- What would the purchasing process look like? Who is involved?
- What would be a successful outcome with this solution? (Quantitative and qualitative)
Questions that Focus on Needs
Find out what your prospect needs as it relates to making this decision with these questions:
- What are your top priorities/goals for your business, and how will this solution help you accomplish those?
- If we offered exactly what you’re looking for, what would that look like specifically? Can you describe it?
- Do you require a certain billing cycle?
- What is your timeline for making a decision?
- Do you know when you’d like to implement this solution?
- We’ve heard about some common issues regarding this problem. Do these apply to your situation?
- How important to you is great service?
- How urgent is this problem and need for a solution?
- How does it affect everyone on your team?
Competitor and Industry Questions
Get to know what your prospects know about you as well as their own industry. This can give you valuable context to work in your solution.
- What do you know about us and our service/product?
- What do you think a solution like ours should cost and why?
- What are your company’s competitive strengths and weaknesses in the market?
- Is the issue you’re facing a common industry problem?
- What are others in your industry doing to solve this issue?
- Are you looking into other solutions currently? What are they? Or do you already have another contract going?
- Has your company ever used a product or service like this before?
- What hasn’t worked in the past when trying to address it?
- What are you looking for in a partnership of this kind?
Now, it’s time to see where this will lead. So, we suggest you ask:
- Are there any concerns you have about moving forward?
- What is holding you back from saying yes at this time?
- Does this sound like it could help your business accomplish its goals?
- Do you have any questions about how our product or service will work in the context of your business?
- What are the best times/days to follow up with you?
- Is there anyone else on your team that you’d like me to include in our correspondence?
Find out if they’re ready to make a move on your solution by asking:
- Are you ready to read the proposal/contract?
- If we could tackle your last concern or obstacle, would you be ready to sign today?
Practice to Avoid Pitfalls
Once you grasp the importance of questions and their role in sales, you can move forward with an effective approach to prospecting. Consistent, experiential practice is vital to continual improvement in this industry, and sometimes that means seeking help from a simulation approach such as Staccato.